MUKARRAM Jah Bahadur, the last Nizam of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, passed away in Istanbul on Saturday and was laid to rest on Wednesday in the city from where his paternal ancestors had ruled a fabulously rich realm.
While the late Nizam was the heir to his paternal grandfather, Mir Osman Ali Khan, what is lesser known is that Mukarram Jah was also designated as the successor of his maternal grandfather Sultan Abdulmajid II, the last Ottoman Caliph, combining in his persona heirship to India’s grandest princely state, as well as the storied Ottoman Caliphate.
According to TRT World, Mukarram Jah was 89, while as per the Press Trust of India the last Nizam was laid to rest next to his father Azam Jah after Asr prayers with state honours.
Mukarram Jah represented a legacy that is steeped in Muslim history. His grandfather Osman Ali Khan was said to be the richest man in the world at one time. While Hyderabad state’s independence came to an end with the Indian invasion of 1948, he inherited the Nizam’s title after his grandfather overlooked his father and made Mukarram Jah heir. His reign as Nizam would come to an end in the early 1970s when a constitutional amendment in India ended privy purses. From then on he would be known as the titular Nizam.
However, his maternal ancestry was no less impressive as his mother, Princess Durre Shehvar, was the daughter of Sultan Abdulmajid II. While the Turkish Grand National Assembly had ended the Ottoman Sultanate in 1922, the caliphate was abolished two years later.
Abdulmajid and his family were thereafter put on a train to Europe by the Kemalists and, as per a report in Middle East Eye, lived in penury. It was, according to the same publication, Nizam Osman Ali Khan who came to the financial rescue of the heir to the Ottoman sultans, as Abdulmajid was reportedly given a monthly pension of £300 by Hyderabad’s ruler.
Soon enough, this support would transform into familial ties, after, reportedly, Maulana Shaukat Ali of Khilafat Movement fame proposed that two of the Nizam’s sons marry the last Ottoman Caliph’s daughter and niece. The wedding of Azam Jah and his younger brother Moazzam Jah was solemnised to Princess Durre Shehvar and Niloufer, respectively, in the French Riviera in 1931.
According to MEE, the Nizam wrote to the Caliph that “an alliance has been established between the two ancient and historic dynasties which, it is hoped, has prospects of a bright future.”
While Mukarram Jah would inherit rulership of Hyderabad State upon his grandfather’s passing in 1967, according to MEE, quoting Australian scholar John Zubrzycki, author of The Last Nizam, Sultan Abdulmajid had willed that his maternal grandson inherit the [abolished] caliphate after him.
But the grandeur of the Istanbul and Hyderabad courts was not for Mukarram Jah, who much preferred the Australian outback, buying a massive ranch in Western Australia. Yet financial troubles consistently followed the heir to one of the most massive fortunes of the world, and the last Nizam would spend his final years in the city from where his maternal Ottoman forebears once ruled an empire spanning from the Levant to North Africa, and from Hejaz to the Balkans.
Mukarram Jah reportedly married five times and is succeeded by his son Azmat Jah as titular Nizam of Hyderabad.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2023
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